The 'Genius Move' That Helped Drake's New Song 'Toosie Slide' Hit No. 1

Apr 17, 2020
Originally published on April 17, 2020 7:22 pm

Earlier this week, Drake's latest single "Toosie Slide" debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making the Canadian rapper the first male artist — and second artist ever — in Billboard history to have three singles reach No. 1 upon release. But unlike the rapper's past No. 1 debuts, "God's Plan" and "Nice For What," this new chart-topper is a result of Drizzy's ability to harness social media in a new way.

A perfect storm of quarantine boredom and creativity has bred a boom in dance challenges online lately. Many of these challenges take shape and take off on TikTok, the bite-sized video sharing app. These challenges have also helped to propel their corresponding songs up the charts. While quarantined in his plush compound, the 6ix God took notice of this trend and decided to get ahead of it.

Before officially dropping "Toosie Slide" on April 3, the Toronto rapper shared the song in late March with Toosie, an Atlanta-based dancer. It was Toosie and his friends who created a custom-fit dance for the track. This is also how the song got its name.

Toosie shared his dance creation, along with a strategic leak of the song snippet, on social media and fans took the moves to TikTok immediately.

"Considering his name holds so much weight, why not just kick off another challenge while everybody's just minding they own business in they living room?" Carl Lamarre, Hip-Hop Editor at Billboard, says. "We need something to do. We need to stay active."

This is not the first time a dance challenge has boosted a song on the charts. It's also not the first time a challenge has helped Drizzy score a No. 1 spot (his 2018 hit, "In My Feelings," inspired online comedian Shiggy to create a challenge that quickly caught on). It's not even the first time a TikTok challenge has helped a song's chart performance. From The Weeknd's "Blinding Lights" to Dua Lipa's "Don't Start Now," every song in the current Hot 100's Top 5 has a TikTok challenge associated with it and Lamarre notes that even "Savage," the latest single from Megan Thee Stallion, "shot up 70-plus spots" in the four weeks since it entered the Hot 100 thanks, in part, to TikTok.

But those TikTok challenges tend to be fan-created after the song's release. What Lamarre says makes this new No. 1 different is that the accompanying challenge was premeditated by the artist himself to ensure social media virality. "Timing is on his side," Lamarre says. "For Drake, I think it was a genius move for him to lock in and kind of pre-plan the whole process."

But does "Toosie Slide" have the staying power as some of Drake's past No. 1's?

"I don't think it'll supersede a 'In My Feelings' as far as the duration of how long it can maintain a No. 1 spot, but I do give it four to five weeks," Lamarre predicts. "Either way, the Boy, he's too hot!"

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

This week the latest single from Drake, "Toosie Slide," debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. That makes the Canadian rapper the first male artist in Billboard history to have three singles reach No. 1 upon release. This hit, though, is not quite like his others. NPR Music's Sidney Madden tells us why.

SIDNEY MADDEN, BYLINE: A perfect storm of quarantine boredom and creativity has bred a boom in dance challenges online lately. Many of these challenges are taking shape on TikTok, the bite-sized video sharing app. They're also propelling the songs tied to those challenges up the Billboard charts.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE WEEKND'S "BLINDING LIGHTS")

MADDEN: From The Weeknd's "Blinding Lights" to Dua Lipa's "Don't Start Now," every song on Billboard Hot 100's top five currently has a dance challenge associated with it. Drake, hip-hop's streaming era record-breaker, took notice of the trend, and he decided to get ahead of it. Drake officially dropped "Toosie Slide" on April 3, but the Toronto rapper actually shared the song a month earlier with the dancer Toosie. That's how the song got its name. It was Toosie and his friends who created a custom-fit dance challenge for it. Toosie shared a snippet of his dance creation along with the song on social media, and fans copied the moves.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOOSIE SLIDE")

DRAKE: (Singing) I'ma (ph) show you how to get it. It go right foot up, left foot slide, left foot up, right foot slide. Basically, I'm saying either way, we 'bout (ph) to slide.

MADDEN: This challenge built so much hype before the song was officially released that once the real deal did drop, it shot up the charts. This is not the first time a dance challenge has boosted a Hot 100 hit. It's not even the first time a TikTok challenge has helped a song's chart performance. But those TikTok challenges tend to be fan-created after the song comes out. Carl Lamarre, Billboard's hip-hop editor, says what makes this new No. 1 different is that the accompanying challenge was premeditated by the artist himself.

CARL LAMARRE: For Drake, it was a genius move for him to lock in and kind of preplan the whole process because considering his name holds so much weight, why not just kick off another challenge while everybody is just minding they own business in they living room? We need something to do. We need to stay active.

MADDEN: Although it's catchy now, Lamarre predicts "Toosie Slide" doesn't have the same staying power as some of Drake's past No. 1's.

LAMARRE: I don't think it'll supersede, like, "In My Feelings" as far as, like, the duration of how long it can maintain a No. 1 spot, but I do give it four to five weeks. Either way, the boy - he's too hot. He's too hot.

MADDEN: But while we're still inside, we can enjoy it while it lasts. Sidney Madden, NPR Music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOOSIE SLIDE")

DRAKE: (Rapping) Black leather gloves - no sequins. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.